“When we assign blame we are pointing the finger to who or what is responsible for a fault or for a wrongdoing. We are trying to make others accountable. Blaming does not solve a problem it usually only makes people defensive.” ~ Catherine Pulsifer
Boy, this is a tough article to write, because it is painful for me to admit the truth of what I have been doing all these years. I have hurt the ones I love and I have hurt myself in return. I have been doing this behavior for so long, I am only hopeful that I can stop it now.
When I feel my anxiety rising, when I am feeling stressed, when I am feeling low or sad, when I want to boost my ego and self-esteem — I fall back to one of the worst habits that hurts those I love. I blame and yell.
Why is this the manifestation of these feelings I have had for so long? I know I’m not the only one because it has been researched and one of my favorite self-help gurus Brené Brown has a wonderful video and perspective on this problem I am dealing with.
Here’s what Brené discovered that I want to put into my life. “Here’s what we know from the research. Blame is simply the discharging of discomfort and pain. It has an inverse relationship with accountability. Blaming is a way that we discharge anger.”
She goes on to explain why accountability is so important. She explains that accountability is a
vulnerable process and that “blamers spend all of our energy raging for 15 seconds and figuring out whose fault something is.”
She finishes her blame explanation telling us that blame is extremely corrosive in relationships and that the 15 seconds of raging can ruin the relationship we have while also causing us to miss our chance for empathy from our loved ones.
Dammit, I am a blamer. But watching Brené Brown, I realized I am not the only one and that there is a way through tough self-practice to break the blame habit. First I had to learn why I am a blamer. That was not too hard for me. I have feared for so long that I was disliked by others. After all, my mind said, why should someone even like you when you were bullied and abused as a child?Yes, it was during my youth, when my self-esteem was all but destroyed and abuse took a big chunk from my life that I started using blame as a way of self-defense and a way to avoid accountability.
First, I blamed my parents for my lot in life. After all, they sent me to the school I got bullied at. After all, they were ineffective in stopping that abuse. To boot, my family was a bunch of yellers and blamers when I was growing up. I knew it was bad then when I took the brunt of the blame. But I also learned a bad habit.
I did eventually fall in love, get married and have two really good kids. But I used to blame a lot with them as my way to avoid accountability and have a foil to discharge my anger and self-esteem issues, too. Not the best idea I ever had as it was and still is corrosive to my own relationships with my wife and kids. I started wondering, how many divorces come from the issue of not taking accountability for your own faults and blaming the ones you love? It was only recently, as I saw my kids grow up and leave the house and felt my marriage begin to crumble that I took accountability for my blame reactions. Is it solved yet for me? No, it just isn’t going to be that easy. When things are good in my life, it is easy not to blame. But when something bad happens, that is when my blame and anger surface. That is when I sacrifice accountability. So I am learning how to handle it.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1. Stop using the word “you” when you feel blame coming on.
I need to remember that I need to hold myself accountable for my feelings. It’s not that blame is never going to happen. But if you find yourself always saying “you always do this” or “you never do that” something needs to change. That change is changing it to say, “My feelings were hurt when…” Of course, you can’t overuse this either or you look like someone who can’t deal with your own emotions. This requires a strengthening of your self-esteem.
2. Remember that blame is an immediate discharge.
Breathe and take a moment before opening that voice box of yours. If you can hold it and tell yourself to wait, the blame will go away quickly and you can rationalize again. This may be the toughest part of stopping blame. You have to fight your now natural instinct to rage for those 15 seconds because it makes you feel better. You need to find another way to feel better.
3. Recognize that you and the ones you care about are equal and apologize
Blame is not going to be easy to give up, particularly as it is a way to avoid accountability (which abuse victims have seen as a weakness) and blame everyone else in the world for your problems. Do I want to go to therapy forever? If I do, this is the one to change soon. Don’t let your ego get the better of you. Don’t let your child’s brain come back to you as an adult. Take accountability and apologize for what you said or did to your loved ones when you blamed. No, this is never easy, particularly with a weak self-esteem. But remember that you want to take accountability for your reaction. If you don’t, most people won’t hang around you long. Talk about taking a blow to your self-esteem. Wait until no one is talking to you.
Wow, this one is hard to face. Stopping blame means allowing vulnerability. For someone with anxiety and self-esteem issues, this is a tough habit to break. But put yourself in your loved one’s shoes and realize how you are coming across.
I am lucky that my wife and family are still with me, but that won’t last until I change and stop blaming. I realized the extent I was doing this when I watched someone else in my family blame and rage and realized how foolish they were being. They realized it too when they saw all our faces. It was at that moment that I realized how I must look to the people I care about.
Another final important note. You can’t reverse time. You can’t pretend things didn’t happen. I have to own up to the years of blaming and corrosive behavior I have done to my family. I have to change my blame habit and show them I have changed. No solution, except proof and time and changing my habits will convince them that I have changed. You’ll have to excuse me now. I have a lot of apologizing and practicing to do as I work to stop blaming and start owning my feelings again.
This article originally appeared on The Mighty.